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Here's What Can Happen If You're Sitting Too Much

May 6, 2021

The COVID-19 pandemic that has forced many of us to spend more time in our homes is also keeping us from moving as much. If you’re working from home, you don’t have to make those walks across the office or have the option of parking far from the front door or taking the stairs. You’re probably sitting more, and sitting too much can cause some unwanted side effects.

If you think you’re sitting too much, you’re not alone. The University of Washington researchers found that despite warnings about the dangers of a sedentary lifestyle, Americans are spending more time sitting now than they were in 2001. In fact, adults in the United States report 7 hours of daily sitting, and 50% report over 3 hours of daily television viewing.

The bottom line is that if you’re not getting enough exercise, or movement in general, your body may pay for it. Sitting too much can hurt your health. So let’s look at some of the negative effects that sitting too much can cause.

Heart Disease

Sitting too much can be bad for your heart and blood vessels. In fact, it may not only increase your risk of heart disease, but an extensive study on more than 17,000 people found a sedentary lifestyle can increase your risk of dying from a heart attack by as much as 54% compared to those who lead a more active lifestyle.

Varicose Veins

Sitting for long periods of time can cause blood to pool in the legs. This can lead to varicose veins, or spider veins, a smaller version of the former. Though generally not harmful themselves, these swollen and visible veins can be unsightly and cause pain. In rare cases, they can lead to more serious conditions, like blood clots.

Spinal Strain

It’s crucial to keep your spine straight and at ease because it’s the framework of all your vital organs. Some researchers say that sitting is an unnatural position for the human body. They believe humans are innately meant to lead a very active everyday life because our spines are built in an S-shape to withstand strains.

But when you’re sitting down, your spine turns into a C-shape. This can cause your stomach muscles to become weaker. This becomes even harder when the person isn’t exercising regularly.

Scientists also think that the constant straining of the spine can result in an altered vision and migraines.

What You Can Do

Harvard researchers recommend putting together an action plan to add steps to your daily routine. It includes:

  • Watching less television  
  • Getting up and moving around for at least 10 minutes every hour
  • Working at a stand-up or treadmill desk  
  • Taking at least two walks per day. A study from the George Washington University Medical Center suggests that brief walks after meals are better for keeping blood sugar in check than one long walk each day.
  • Starting a walking group. You'll be more active, and you'll also socialize, which is good for your mental health.

The updated list of physical activity guidelines for Americans from the Department of Health and Human Services recommends adults should do at least 150 minutes to 300 minutes a week of moderate-intensity activity. You should also do muscle-strengthening activities on two or more days a week. Just make sure you check with your doctor before beginning any activity, especially if it’s been a while since you’ve exercised.

We have a guide that can help you get moving a little more. Not only will you learn how to work more movement into a typical day, but you will also find out how you can do it without losing any time in your day.

Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans